Airbus Defence and Space

Ariane 5: placing the heaviest loads in orbit

Ariane 5 is a major element in Europe’s unrestricted, independent access to space. Airbus Defence and Space, as prime contractor and lead manufacturer, is one of the keys to this success, with experience dating back to the beginnings of the European space industry, the Diamant and early Ariane launchers...

The new-generation Ariane 5 continues the tradition of its famous predecessors, Ariane 1 to 4, but features a radically new design. Since 2005, the latest heavy-lift version of Ariane 5 has provided increased Geostationary Transfer Orbit payload capacity, up to 10 tonnes on dual launches, to meet the evolving demands of both commercial and institutional markets. It incorporates a new cryogenic upper stage carrying over 14 tonnes of propellants, and a strengthened cryogenic main stage, powered by the new Vulcain 2 engine.

Airbus Defence and Space has a dual role on this launcher as:

  • Sole prime contractor (since May 2003), in charge of co-ordinating some 64 companies across Europe. This new arrangement means that Airbus Defence and Space delivers to Arianespace, the launch services marketing company, a complete, fully-tested, cost-effective launcher, in line with demanding market conditions.
  • Lead manufacturer, responsible for the production of all Ariane 5 stages, the vehicle equipment bay, the dual launch system upper part structure (SYLDA) and flight software, along with a number of subassemblies. Airbus Defence and Space teams are on hand in Kourou, French Guiana, to support Arianespace during launch campaigns.

Airbus Defence and Space is now the single point of contact for the European Space Agency (ESA), and prime contractor for future developments on Ariane 5.

Within a matter of months of the historic decision taken by representatives of the ESA member states during the December 2014 Ministerial Conference in Luxembourg to build a latest generation European launcher, the European Space Agency has signed a contract with Airbus Safran Launchers: This joint venture between Airbus Group and Safran will be in charge of the development of the Ariane 6 launcher in its two versions, Ariane 62 and 64.

LauncherAriane 5